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Bladenboro residents may need to increase their budget

Staff report

It is budget time for a lot of municipalities and the Town of Bladenboro is no exception. The Bladenboro Board of Commissioners met Monday evening to discuss the new proposed budget as well as economic development, zoning and a few other items.

Before the Board of Commissioners discussed the proposed budget, economic development was addressed. Don White with Boost the Boro, Inc., a local non-profit made up of volunteers addressed the Town Board. White spoke about the economic development plan both members of the Town Board of Commissioners and Boost the Boro members have been working on for over a year. 

White presented an opportunity to work with local businesses in the area to develop multiple videos highlighting benefits of having a business in Bladenboro in hopes to lure more businesses in to Town. White introduced Charlotte Smith, with CAB Marketing, LLC to present the Town with a proposal of video advertising and marketing for the Town. Smith explained the proposal would include production of five videos and a 30 second commercial. The proposal also stated Star Communications, Boost the Boro members and media outlets would be used in the execution of the plan laid out in the proposal.

Commissioner Rodney Hester asked White how much of the $2,000 video marketing proposed cost would White like the Town to pay. White said, “All of it,” and added, “You have to spend money to make money.” The Boost of Boro members will be adding a lot of volunteer time to the video project and the proposal is heavily discounted White stated.

The State Commerce reported the Town of Bladenboro is losing millions of dollars in “leaking” revenue. White explained products and services residents must drive out of town to purchase is considered leaking revenue.

O’Daniel said his concern with the proposal would be the perception of the Town of Bladenboro promoting individual businesses. Commissioner Greg Sykes said he was interested in the video proposal, but thought a meeting with all the Town’s business owners would be the next step.

White said he would organize a meeting for the Town business owners. Mayor Rufus Duckworth said no action was taken on the marketing proposal item because it was only for discussion.

O’Daniel presented the town with the five year Economic Development Plan and noted the Town was responsible for all items in the plan. Suggestions were made to have parts of the plan delegated. Commissioner Gregory Sykes stated some of the deadlines on the plan had already passed or are approaching soon.

Commissioner Sarah Benson said and repeated after further discussion about the economic development plan, “”Where do we start? We have been working on this Economic Development Plan for over a year and little if anything has been done.”

Benson made a motion to accept the five year Economic Development Plan as it was presented and the motion passed. “We have to start somewhere,” Benson said.

The next most discussed topic was the new proposed budget. Even though the proposed budget for the Town during the new fiscal year of 2018-19 does not increase the tax rate for property owners; the budget of $1,723,648 increases fees for water and garbage services.

The proposed plan increases the garbage services by 2.9 percent according to Town Administrator John O’Daniel. The increase in water charges in the proposed budget is to try to curb water usage according to O’Daniel.

The proposed budget included spending for a Delton rifle and binoculars for the Bladenboro Police Department. Also on the list are multiple insurance rate increases. O’Daniel announced insurance rate increases on several different insurances the Town is responsible for paying. From property insurance, liability insurance to the health insurance policies for Town employees, all rates have been increased according to O’Daniel.

Overall the new proposed budget has increased by over $21,500 from last year. The increases in insurance premiums of over 30 percent is added in the new proposal. The Commissioners made a plan to meet next Tuesday, May 22nd to discuss the proposed budget in depth. The new fiscal year will begin on July 1, 2018 with a new budget.

The Commissioners approved the VFW and Military Museum installing pavers at the Town’s Memorial site brought before them by Veteran Bobby Ludlum with the VFW. Ludlum said the project would be at no cost to the town.

Mike Davis with the Pinecrest Cemetery Association, a local non-profit asked the Board members to look at repairs needed on Cemetery Street, which is owned by the Town. Davis said, the maintenance costs right now should not be a lot, but if not addressed in 10 years the damage may cost the Town a lot of funding.

The Board accepted a new zoning ordnance which may allow farmers to ask the Town Board for permission to operate a produce stand inside the Town limits. The Commissioners approved an Employee’s evaluation presented by O’Daniel. O’Daniel said the evaluation form is currently used by other Towns.

Before the Board adjourned, Commissioner Gene Norton suggested cooking to show Town employees appreciation. All agreed on a date to have a cook-out for Town employees.

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